waiting for the barbarians trailer

Samuel Goldwyn Films has released a trailer for its star-studded period drama Waiting for the Barbarians, based on the the J.M. Coetzee novel of the same name. Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp, and Robert Pattinson star in the historical drama, which marks the English-language debut of Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent). Watch the Waiting for the Barbarians trailer below.

Waiting for the Barbarians Trailer

Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) stars as nameless magistrate of a frontier settlement at the outer reaches of a vast, unnamed empire. But as the magistrate prepares for an easy retirement, Colonel Joll — played by Johnny Depp with a pair of sinister-looking round sunglasses — arrives at the settelement with orders to secure the border against so-called “barbarians” on the other side of the wall. Joll soon asserts a violent authority, conducting a series of tortuous interrogations that leads the magistrate to question his loyalty to the empire, especially once a beautiful girl (Gana Bayarsaikhan) becomes one of the victims. Robert Pattinson also stars as an upstart officer who eagerly bends to Joll’s new regime. The rest of the cast includes Greta ScacchiDavid DencikSam ReidHarry MellingBill Milner, and Gana Bayarsaikhan as a character known simply as “The Girl.”

The 1980 novel by South African writer J.M. Coetzee upon which Waiting for the Barbarians is based was apparently an acclaimed allegory for apartheid that argues for peace and inclusivity. But the involvement of Depp, whose messy divorce with Amber Heard resulted in allegations of domestic abuse from both sides, and the troubling title makes this film feel like a remnant of a time when Orientalism and colonialism were abundant in prestige dramas. While the book, with its vague descriptors and fictional empires, was supposedly an argument against these issues, there’s something disquieting about this whole thing. But we shall see what happens when we get a chance to see it.

Here is the synopsis for Waiting for the Barbarians:

The Magistrate (Mark Rylance) of an isolated frontier settlement on the border of an unnamed empire looks forward to an easy retirement until the arrival of Colonel Joll (Johnny Depp), whose task it is to report on the activities of the ‘barbarians’ and on the security situation on the border. Joll conducts a series of ruthless interrogations, which leads the Magistrate to question his loyalty to the empire.

Waiting for the Barbarians hits digital platforms and on-demand on August 7, 2020.

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